Features of an ideal tragic hero

Question: Discuss the Features of an ideal tragic hero.

Or, what is Aristotle’s view about an ideal tragic hero?


Aristotle (384-322) BC is the “dean of all literary critics”. In his poetics, he has limned complete conception about tragedy and an ideal tragic hero who has to be able to rise pity and fear within the audience. According to Aristotle, the characters of a tragedy must be lifelike and the hero especially.

Features of an ideal tragic hero or character

The features of an ideal tragic hero or character which are detected or outlined by Aristotle are illustrated here.


Hamartia is a Greek word which means tragic flaw causes the downfall of the hero. Tragic within the tragic character does not refer to moral falling or absence of morality. Rather it indicates the three facts such as ignorance of circumstances, error of judgement and voluntary commitment for error. All the acclaimed tragic characters possess the ways of tragic flaw. Othello is the specimen of judgement of error, King Lear has attained the sample voluntary error by banishing Cordelia and Oedipus is the symbol of complete procedure. So, without tragic flaw or hamartia a character is plain not tragic one.

More Notes of Criticism


Hubris is a Greek word that stands for excessive pride and disrespect for natural order of things. Aristotle emphasizes that an ideal tragic character must not be too good or bad but a person of common character. A character having no pride is an angel or the best one and at the same having hubris does not reflect worse type of people. Hubris prevails in almost all the people of the world. Oedipus is once again a token of an ideal tragic hero.


The Greek word peripeteia implies reversal of fate that is one of the prime features of an ideal tragic character. Aristotle means to say by the term “the reversal of fate” that the journey of a tragic character will be from happiness to misery or from misery to happiness to distress. Romeo is a fine emblem of a tragic hero. He is sad for losing first of all and then happy for and finally faces death for love.


Anagnorisis connotes the important moment of the plot for an important discovery which changes the direction of the plot in a very strong way. Aristotle relates that moment of an important discovery is a must for being an ideal tragic but nowadays it has been shown that without anagnorisis an ideal tragic character can be created. Maurya of the one act modern tragedy “Riders to the sea” by J. M. Synge is a perfect tragic character without anagnorisis.

Nemesis and catharsis

Nemesis prescribes the punishment and suffering of the tragic character. On the other hand, catharsis refers to pity and fear roused within the audience. A tragic character must suffer because of hamartia and hubris. Though a tragic character is an intermediate type of person, he is to suffer utmost. To bring the effect of catharsis, nemesis is as compulsory as breath for human beings. There is nobody in the world who cannot but feeling fear and conferring pity to see the misery of King Oedipus of Greek mythology.

High birth or blood

According to Aristotle, a tragic character must have high birth or blood, but it is not mandatory in present context of an ideal tragic character at all. We can cite a lot of examples of ideal tragic characters who do not belong to high class. Maurya is a typical ideal tragic character of low birth.


In termination, it can be undoubtedly asserted if the dean of the critics of all languages of literature did not provide the features of an ideal tragic character, none could examine on a tragic hero now and then let alone creation. So, Aristotle is the creator of the creators in respect of tragic hero though he himself does not directly create any tragic hero.

SR Sarker
SR Sarker
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